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‘Men-streaming’ Women’s Economic Empowerment | Inter Press Service

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Most initiatives around women's economic empowerment are largely myopic in their approach. Failure to recognise the role of men and masculinities in this context can pose a significant barrier to both women and men's economic well-being.

Photograph courtesy: Charlotte Anderson

NEW DELHI, Dec 20 2018 (IPS) – Most initiatives round Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) are largely myopic of their strategy. Failure to recognise the position of males and masculinities on this context can pose a big barrier to each men and women’s financial well-being.

Everyone seems to be on board—worldwide businesses, governments, multinational firms, foundations, nonprofits, and so forth.

Following the publication of the 2012 World Improvement Report, the aim of WEE has been famously branded as ‘smart economics’—higher not only for ladies themselves, however for financial progress and improvement at giant.

Based on a 2015 report by the McKinsey International Institute, bridging the gender hole within the office might result in an addition of 60 % in annual GDP for India by 2025. Programming on WEE has additionally flourished throughout numerous sectors, with key linkages within the fields of schooling, well being, violence, battle, and so forth. Nevertheless, one essential set of stakeholders is essentially absent within the buzz round WEE: males.


Males and gender equality

Failure to recognise the position of males and masculinities in ladies’s lives and combine it inside WEE programming displays an incomplete understanding of gendered realities; and may pose a big barrier to each men and women’s financial well-being. In easy phrases, WEE with out integrating males, is not-so-smart economics

Discourses round males’s position in usually supporting ladies’s development aren’t new. Chant and Gutmann have been the primary to make use of the time period ‘men-streaming’, and argued that incorporating males into gender and improvement interventions is a crucial and crucial a part of gender mainstreaming.

Widespread recognition of the relationality of gender, together with criticisms of the ‘women-focused’ strategy of gender and improvement has led ‘engaging men and boys’ to turn into a buzzword of its personal. As power-holders in predominantly patriarchal societies, males are more and more being pushed to make use of their positions of privilege to problem deeply-held inequitable norms and buildings.

In India, a number of platforms and programmes have emerged to foster males’s engagement, and the proof is promising[i]. Nevertheless, mirroring international tendencies, most initiatives in India that contain males are situated primarily within the realms of violence towards ladies and sexual and reproductive well being.

WEE initiatives are largely myopic of their strategy, and sometimes fall in need of situating ladies’s poor financial standing inside the context of their unequal energy relations with males.


What do males need to do with WEE?

WEE interventions have principally targeted on ladies—and rightly so, for ladies bear the brunt of gender-based socioeconomic inequities, and for lengthy have been marginalised inside the broader discourse on financial improvement. The flourishing of WEE globally has introduced forth ladies’s voices and experiences and positioned them at a centre stage, which is an achievement value celebrating.

Nevertheless, failure to recognise the position of males and masculinities in ladies’s lives and combine it inside WEE programming displays an incomplete understanding of gendered realities; and may pose a big barrier to each men and women’s financial well-being. In easy phrases, WEE with out integrating males, is not-so-smart economics.


Gender relations are complicated and interconnected

The widespread, obvious absence of males inside WEE discourse and programming is greatest mirrored in in style interventions similar to microcredit and conditional money transfers (CCT). These interventions are likely to focus solely on ladies, with out significant engagement with male kinfolk to problem their norms, behaviour, and attitudes. This raises a number of necessary questions.

  • How do these initiatives work together with present intra-household dynamics?
  • Do ladies retain management over the assets mobilised via these initiatives?
  • Who within the family decides how the extra assets are utilised? 


Hostilities between women and men must be addressed

It’s inconceivable to realize actual empowerment for ladies with out first involving males as supportive allies. WEE approaches that focus on solely ladies can result in the emergence of tensions and hostilities between women and men.

Poor and marginalised males, particularly, are already struggling to take care of their breadwinner standing inside their households and should understand WEE interventions as a direct menace to their positions inside the established order.

Research from all over the world—together with India—have demonstrated that many ladies engaged in paid work, vocational coaching, and different financial actions are at heightened danger of experiencing home and different forms of violence. These research additional underscore the significance of integrating males into WEE initiatives and difficult norms round masculinity for each women and men’s wellbeing.


Women’s workload must be accounted for

Males’s exclusion from WEE initiatives additionally has very actual penalties on ladies’s workload. WEE initiatives typically deal with ladies as a ‘one-stop’ answer and ‘cushion’ for financial struggles, and additional reinforce the gendered division of labour somewhat than problem it. There’s a rising physique of literature suggesting that CCT interventions that focus on solely ladies have critical ramifications on their time poverty and general well-being.

Equally necessary is WEE programming on ladies’s unpaid care work, which is steadily partaking males in essential conversations surrounding the worth of care, the distribution of family work, and males’s personal roles as husbands and fathers.

The 2017 State of the World’s Fathers report brings these points to the forefront, and highlights proof that mum or dad coaching initiatives for males can scale back violence, improve fathers’ involvement in childcare, and increase general gender equality in collaborating households. That is notably essential for WEE as ladies’s quite a few home duties can typically constrain their choices for productive work, in addition to leisure and participation in civic and political life.

So how can we be sure that our engagement with males and boys promotes WEE that’s really holistic in its character and complete in its scope?


Partaking males throughout a number of ranges

It’s extensively acknowledged that ladies’s financial well-being is decided by elements at numerous ranges together with the household or family, the bigger group, and the authorized and coverage degree.

The 2014 ILO-WED challenge temporary on partaking males in WEE interventions attracts upon present literature and intervention evaluations to spotlight the significance of working throughout these numerous ranges.


  1. Inside the household/family: WEE interventions can invite males to take part in trainings and capacity-building actions concentrating on ladies, in addition to interact male family members particularly to problem gender inequitable norms and practices..
  2. On the group degree: Consciousness elevating by means of campaigns, participatory periods, and cultural actions will help rework dangerous norms and stereotypes, Empowering and selling context-specific male position fashions and champions might be an efficient strategy to ‘use men to change other men’.
  3. On the authorized/coverage degree: Legal guidelines and insurance policies selling wholesome masculinities can act because the spine to interventions that encourage males to take part in childcare and problem norms on gendered divisions of labour.


For instance, India lacks national-level legal guidelines on paternity depart and advantages, and males are largely absent from insurance policies on reproductive and youngster well being.  Interventions that encourage males to spend extra time on childcare and have interaction with their youngsters will proceed to be held again until gaps in nationwide legal guidelines and insurance policies are addressed.

Given their management over social, political, and financial assets, males are gatekeepers for gender equality and are a essential a part of any technique to advance ladies’s empowerment.

Partaking with males throughout a number of ecological ranges is important for advancing WEE. This isn’t a simple activity, for any venture that promotes gender equality requires males to yield the relative privileges that they possess and construct extra equitable relationships with ladies (and different males).

Partaking with males, or ‘men-streaming’, can thus scale back hostilities between women and men, and foster their constructive involvement and contribution towards WEE and the bigger objective of gender equality.

In India, the MenEngage-associated Discussion board to Interact Males (FEM) is actively concerned in advocacy, coverage debates, program improvement, and activism on this space. ICRW has additionally spearheaded a number of packages that interact males and boys, together with Parivartan, Yaari-Dosti, GEMS, and PAnKH.


Ravi Verma is Regional Director for the Worldwide Centre for Analysis on Women’s (ICRW) Asia Regional Workplace in New Delhi.


This story was initially revealed by India Improvement Evaluate (IDR)


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